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Trio creates book on regional pottery

AMANDA SEBASTIANO
Staff Writer

A dentist, a photographer and a historian join forces in search of local pottery in the Catawba Valley district, illustrated in their new book “Valley Ablaze.”
Jason Harpe, executive director of the county’s Historical Association, and photographer Dawn Crouse started brainstorming ideas a couple years ago after a noticing a rise in demand for photos of local potters and their work, while also observing a lack of in-depth coverage of the art form.
There haven’t been many books put out lately that take a thorough look at the Catawba Valley area and the pottery reputation it holds, they agreed, which prompted their work to creating a full-of-pictures depiction of a long-time Lincoln County tradition.
Harpe brings his knowledge of the history behind the area and what pottery has and still means to the county, while Crouse brings visuals to the story, giving readers tangible objects to illustrate what the articles are referencing.
Brian Dedmond, who joined them in creating the book, adds a collector’s perspective.
Readers can expect to see more than 700 pieces of pottery throughout the book, Harpe promises, some dating back to the 1970s and have never been seen in print before. Biographies of various artists will be available as part of the story as well, thanks to Dedmond.
Aside from his dentist career, Dedmond is also a face-jug pottery collector. He has lived in the area all of his life, and decided to get involved with the project partly to spread the word to local residents.
“A lot of people are oblivious to the pottery that is around in the county,” Dedmond told the Times-News on Tuesday. “Some of the earliest potters came from this area.”
Dedmond has been collecting pieces for the last 10 years — a hobby that started back in 2002 in a ceramics class at the University of North Carolina. An academic advisor had suggested that he take some sort of sculpting class so he could prove that he was able to work with his hands, an ability that he believed may help him in his dentistry field later.
Valley Ablaze breaks down the history of the long-standing tradition through articles by various contributors, including Harpe, along with vintage and contemporary photographs of regional pottery.
Though the Goosepen Press book took about two years to put together, Harpe said it was largely due to schedule conflicts with getting images of potters making and selling their pieces — shots Crouse is proud of and hopes will separate the story she contributed to from others like it. Harpe is no rookie to working on books, however, and has been involved with six other publications prior to his latest endeavor.
“Many of the older books I’ve seen out there focus heavily on written articles, more than the visual images,” Crouse said.
A part-time photography instructor at Catawba Valley Community College, Crouse also volunteers with the Historical Association and has been friends with Harpe for the last 10 years or so, she said. She was doing freelance photography of local potters prior to starting on the book and through that work discovered her own interest in the topic as well.
Harpe said he isn’t sure what the price will be for the book just yet, but it is set to be released just after Thanksgiving.

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